No, it’s not some newly-discovered mold or a trendy new mineral-accumulating plant.
Masseboth are a marker of legacy. A legacy is generally understood to be anything handed on from the past, as in something passed from one generation to the next. Included in this concept is the perpetuation of an idea, a practice, or some memory. A legacy can even be our farms and homesteads.
Some of you may have visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., or the USS Missouri in Hawai’i. These are examples of legacies to ensure that future generations not only remember critical milestones in our nation’s history, but also to honor that past.
A long tradition
This certainly isn’t a modern idea. Societies have been establishing memorial legacies for thousands of years. There are examples of when one tribe would agree to a treaty with another and they would erect a large stone, often at the common border, to mark the occasion and remind both peoples of the agreement.
These stones were usually stood up and planted in the ground so they wouldn’t fall over through the passage of many generations. In Hebrew, these stones that were stood up are called masseboth, or standing stones. Masseboth is the plural form of the Hebrew word that simply means “to set up.”
The Hebrews in their exit from Egypt set up standing stones for these purposes. One of the most famous examples of this was when God gave the Hebrews His law and Moses inscribed them and gave them to the people, and the people unanimously agreed to the terms of this covenant, Moses built an altar and set up 12 masseboth (Exodus 24:1-8).
Each standing stone was a reminder to each tribe of their bond with God and that it was not to be broken, but also a reminder that God had given them the instructions for their relationship with Him, a way for sinners to have a relationship with a holy God who can abide no sin.
It had to be a stunning sight to see these erected stones and the altar with Moses performing the ceremony with Aaron and his sons looking on and the 70 elders of the nation assembled before the people. Those generations present, I’m sure, couldn’t forget it. Anyone passing by that place later would have an instant reminder of God’s law and the people’s solemn agreement with Him to keep the law.
What are these, grandpa?
When someone’s child or grandchild would ask, “What do these standing stones mean?” They could be reminded of how God worked in their lives and of God’s mercy for sinners.
Would our farms be a good place for this?
There is an interesting archaeological fact that there are many more masseboth in the desert where the Hebrews wandered than in the Promised Land.
It’s interesting that when the Hebrews felt most dependent on God they may very well have erected more standing stones to serve as reminders of God working in their lives. But, in the Promised Land the presence of masseboth are scarce.
The correlation to the number of standing stones and Israel’s fluctuating dependence on God cannot be proven. Yet, it does illustrate the fact that when we are more dependent on God, He is more active in our lives and when God is active in our lives, He not only meets our needs, but performs miracles.
I suggest that our farms and homesteads can be reflective of what God is doing in our lives. When we are aligned with God, there is often productivity. When we drift from God, there can be trial and hardship and it can be directly seen on our farms.
Don’t misunderstand me. If you’re a believer, don’t think God abandoned because your calf didn’t make it or your son was disobedient. But, the farther we drift from God, the more we are reliant on our own means – that can be daunting on a farm.
I have intimate knowledge about moving water. It’s a powerful force. Large rivers are immensely powerful. And the power grows during flooding. So, when the Bible teaches us that God stopped the Jordan River during the flood stage, it’s something the world would see as extraordinary.
It was a miracle when God parted the Red Sea. A vast body of water and God made it dry for the Hebrews to cross to escape the Egyptian army. We all know this miracle very well. Yet, somehow God’s miracle of parting the Jordan River isn’t seen as quite the same. We don’t picture Charlton Heston standing at the side of the Jordan watching the Arc of the Covenant go into the river and the waters get held up by God. Yet, it is this miracle that God commands Joshua to commemorate with masseboth (Josh. 3:15 – 4:9).
Are we leaving behind masseboth?
What about our children and our grandchildren? Do we have things in our life that cause them to ask, “What happened at such-and-such a time?” How will we pass on what God has done in our lives and on our farms? How will we ensure that God’s miracles are remembered and we remind everyone that our God is a living God and active in our lives?
When God performs that next miracle in our lives – and He will – I suggest we write a letter to our family, or record a video, or start a blog to relate the story. It’s my observation that God is active in so many ways on a homestead or farm. Even seeds are a testimony.
Do we examine our own history with God and ask the question what is the godly legacy we’re leaving? Do we find ways to remind ourselves of God’s presence in our own history and to lead others to Him?
In a sense, we must become standing stones ourselves – living testimonies to the power and love of God – pointing beyond ourselves to the God who is at work in our own lives and on our farms, just as He was in the world of the Hebrews.
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